Whether on the way to class in Wallenberg Hall, while working outside CoHo or scrolling through Fizz, students have probably seen Roberto Smith with his crew of almost a dozen dogs walking around Stanford campus.
For many students, Smith and his canine companions have become a campus staple, frequenting paths between the Graduate School of Business, Main Quad, Tresidder, Hoover Tower and other campus landmarks. For those who miss his appearances on campus, he shares his journeys on his Instagram: @robs_dogs_.
Originally hailing from Florida, Smith moved to California four years ago for reasons quite different from the many student onlookers he passes by on campus.
“I was in Florida, and one of my friends saw me playing with some dogs in the street, and he offered me a job in California working with dogs,” Smith said. He’s been dog-walking at Stanford ever since.
Smith said that he has always loved working with animals, especially dogs.
“The dogs help me a lot with my energy … They teach you a lot. They teach you how to be patient, how to calm yourself,” Smith said.
Smith works with clients from the Bay Area and said that he loves driving to Stanford a few times a week to walk the dogs, or as Smith affectionately calls them, “doggies.”
“I like working at Stanford because it’s a nice place to walk,” Smith said. “[Stanford] is a good place for [the dogs]. There’s a lot of shade, and there’s a lot of good places to walk that make people happy.”
To Smith, dog walking is a rewarding profession. Sometimes, he said, students or passersby stop him to confide that they “were having a bad day and seeing the doggies changed the day for them.”
“That makes me happy, too; it’s nice when you change somebody’s day,” Smith said.
However, dog walking is not always smooth sailing. Sometimes, the dogs can give him “a hard time,” especially when they are new dogs or when they react to distractions on campus, Smith said.
“They have different personalities, so I’m working on them little by little so they know how to get along with the other dogs,” Smith said. “Some of the doggies … they react to people, they react to squirrels, to scooters.”
Smith can be seen walking dogs of all shapes, colors and sizes, ranging from golden retrievers to poodles to German shepherds.
Many students say that they enjoy seeing Smith and his dogs around campus. Posts about Smith and other dog walkers on campus on Fizz, an anonymous social networking app for Stanford students, have gone viral, with some garnering over two thousand upvotes. In the comments, students joke, “How do I become a dog walker?” or share comments of affection like “SOO CUTEE!!”
“I feel like it’s a guardian army patrolling the campus. It’s a welcoming sight and a nice picture to see the fluffy dogs walking around,” said Jack Hsieh ’27.
Hsieh recognized that “it also seems like a really big responsibility to be walking these dogs around. What if one runs away and chaos ensues? But it does seem like they’re all together in harmony, which is really endearing to see.”
Smith’s frequenting of campus has been especially meaningful to frosh. Mikey Taylor ’27 said, “I miss my dog a lot, so when I see the dog walker, it makes me really happy and less homesick.”
Smith isn’t the only dog walker on campus; another by the name of Ry the Pet Guy can be seen frequenting Stanford campus with multiple dogs in tow.
Over the years, Smith has developed a close relationship with each of his clients’ dogs. “They’re all my favorite. I know them, and I have love for all of them.”
Whenever students see him and his canine entourage walking by, Smith encourages them to stop and say “hi.” Through walking his dogs, he said that he has “so much fun meeting a lot of people.”